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John Dryden (1631–1700). The Poems of John Dryden. 1913.


Of the Pythagorean Philosophy; from the Fifteenth Book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses

  • The Fourteenth Book concludes with the Death and Deification of Romulus; The Fifteenth begins with the Election of Numa to the Crown of Rome. On this Occasion, Ovid following the Opinion of some Authors, makes Numa the Schollar of Pythagoras; and to have begun his Acquaintance with that Philosopher at Crotona, a Town in Italy; from thence he makes a Digression to the Moral and Natural Philosophy of Pythagoras: On both which our Author enlarges; and which are the most learned and beautiful Parts of the Metamorphoses.

  • A KING is sought to guide the growing State,

    One able to support the Publick Weight,

    And fill the Throne where Romulus had sat.

    Renown, which oft bespeaks the Publick Voice,

    Had recommended Numa to their Choice:

    A peaceful, pious Prince; who, not content

    To know the Sabine Rites, his Study bent

    To cultivate his Mind: To learn the Laws

    Of Nature, and explore their hidden Cause.

    Urg’d by this Care, his Country he forsook,

    And to Crotona thence his Journey took.

    Arriv’d, he first enquir’d the Founder’s Name

    Of this new Colony; and whence he came

    Then thus a Senior of the Place replies,

    (Well read, and curious of Antiquities)

    ’Tis said, Alcides hither took his way

    From Spain, and drove along his conquer’d Prey,

    Then, leaving in the Fields his grazing Cows,

    He sought himself some hospitable House.

    Good Croton entertain’d his Godlike Guest;

    While he repair’d his weary Limbs with rest.

    The Hero, thence departing, bless’d the Place;

    And here, he said, in Times revolving Race,

    A rising Town shall take its Name from thee.

    Revolving Time fulfill’d the Prophecy:

    For Myscelos, the justest Man on Earth,

    Alemon’s Son, at Argos had his Birth:

    Him Hercules, arm’d with his Club of Oak

    O’ershadow’d in a Dream, and thus bespoke;

    Go, leave thy Native Soil, and make Abode

    Where Æsaris rowls down his rapid Flood.

    He said; and Sleep forsook him, and the God.

    Trembling he wak’d, and rose with anxious Heart;

    His Country Laws forbad him to depart:

    What shou’d he do? ’Twas Death to go away;

    And the God menac’d if he dar’d to stay:

    All Day he doubted, and, when Night came on,

    Sleep, and the same forewarning Dream begun:

    Once more the God stood threatning o’er his head;

    With added Curses if he disobey’d.

    Twice warn’d, he study’d Flight; but wou’d convey,

    At once his Person, and his Wealth away.

    Thus while he linger’d, his Design was heard;

    A speedy Process form’d, and Death declar’d.

    Witness there needed none of his Offence,

    Against himself the Wretch was Evidence:

    Condemn’d, and destitute of human Aid,

    To him, for whom he suffer’d, thus he pray’d.

    O Pow’r, who hast deserv’d in Heav’n a Throne,

    Not giv’n, but by thy Labours made thy own,

    Pity thy Suppliant, and protect his Cause,

    Whom thou hast made obnoxious to the Laws.

    A Custom was of old, and still remains,

    Which Life or Death by Suffrages ordains;

    White Stones and Black within an Urn are cast,

    The first absolve, but Fate is in the last.

    The Judges to the common Urn bequeath

    Their Votes, and drop the Sable Signs of Death;

    The Box receives all Black; but pour’d from thence

    The Stones came candid forth, the Hue of Innocence.

    Thus Alemonides his Safety won,

    Preserv’d from Death by Alcumena’s Son:

    Then to his Kinsman-God his Vows he pays,

    And cuts with prosp’rous Gales th’ Ionian Seas;

    He leaves Tarentum, favour’d by the Wind,

    And Thurine Bays, and Temises, behind;

    Soft Sybaris, and all the Capes that stand

    Along the Shore, he makes in sight of Land;

    Still doubling, and still coasting, till he found

    The Mouth of Æsaris, and promis’d Ground,

    Then saw where, on the Margin of the Flood,

    The Tomb that held the Bones of Croton stood:

    Here, by the God’s Command, he built and wall’d

    The Place predicted; and Crotona call’d

    Thus Fame, from time to time, delivers down

    The sure Tradition of th’ Italian Town.

    Here dwelt the Man divine whom Samos bore,

    But now Self-banish’d from his Native Shore,

    Because he hated Tyrants, nor cou’d bear

    The Chains which none but servile Souls will wear:

    He, tho’ from Heav’n remote, to Heav’n could move,

    With Strength of Mind, and tread th’ Abyss above;

    And penetrate with his interiour Light

    Those upper Depths, which Nature hid from Sight:

    And what he had observ’d, and learnt from thence,

    Lov’d in familiar Language to dispence.

    The Crowd with silent Admiration stand,

    And heard him, as they heard their God’s Command;

    While he discours’d of Heav’ns mysterious Laws,

    The World’s Original, and Nature’s Cause;

    And what was God, and why the fleecy Snows

    In silence fell, and rattling Winds arose;

    What shook the stedfast Earth, and whence begun

    The Dance of Planets round the radiant Sun;

    If Thunder was the Voice of angry Jove,

    Or Clouds with Nitre pregnant burst above:

    Of these, and Things beyond the common Reach,

    He spoke, and charm’d his Audience with his Speech.

    He first the tast of Flesh from Tables drove,

    And argued well, if Arguments cou’d move.

    O Mortals! from your Fellow’s Blood abstain,

    Nor taint your Bodies with a Food profane:

    While Corn and Pulse by Nature are bestow’d,

    And planted Orchards bend their willing Load;

    While labour’d Gardens wholesom Herbs produce,

    And teeming Vines afford their generous Juice:

    Nor tardier Fruits of cruder Kind are lost,

    But tam’d with Fire, or mellow’d by the Frost:

    While Kine to Pails distended Udders bring,

    And Bees their Hony redolent of Spring:

    While Earth not only can your Needs supply.

    But lavish of her Store, provides for Luxury;

    A guiltless Feast administers with Ease,

    And without Blood is prodigal to please.

    Wild Beasts their Maws with their slain Brethren fill;

    And yet not all, for some refuse to kill:

    Sheep, Goats, and Oxen, and the nobler Steed,

    On Browz and Corn, and flow’ry Meadows feed.

    Bears, Tygers, Wolves, the Lion’s angry Brood,

    Whom Heaven endu’d with Principles of Blood,

    He wisely sundred from the rest, to yell

    In Forests, and in lonely Caves to dwell,

    Where stronger Beasts oppress the weak by Might

    And all in Prey, and Purple Feasts delight.

    O impious use! to Nature’s Laws oppos’d,

    Where Bowels are in other Bowels clos’d:

    Where, fatten’d by their Fellow’s Fat, they thrive;

    Maintain’d by Murder, and by Death they live.

    ’Tis then for nought that Mother Earth provides

    The Stores of all she shows, and all she hides,

    If Men with fleshy Morsels must be fed,

    And chaw with bloody Teeth the breathing Bread:

    What else is this but to devour our Guests,

    And barbarously renew Cyclopean Feasts!

    We, by destroying Life, our Life sustain;

    And gorge th’ ungodly Maw with Meats obscene.

    Not so the Golden Age, who fed on Fruit,

    Nor durst with bloody Meals their Mouths pollute.

    Then Birds in airy space might safely move,

    And timerous Hares on Heaths securely rove:

    Nor needed Fish the guileful Hooks to fear,

    For all was peaceful; and that Peace sincere.

    Whoever was the Wretch (and curs’d be He)

    That envy’d first our Food’s simplicity;

    Th’ essay of bloody Feasts on Bruits began,

    And after forg’d the Sword to murther Man.

    Had he the sharpen’d Steel alone employ’d

    On Beasts of Prey that other Beasts destroy’d,

    Or Men invaded with their Fangs and Paws,

    This had been justify’d by Nature’s Laws,

    And Self-defence: But who did Feasts begin

    Of Flesh, he stretch’d Necessity to Sin.

    To kill Man-killers, Man has lawful Pow’r,

    But not th’ extended License, to devour.

    Ill Habits gather by unseen degrees,

    As Brooks make Rivers, Rivers run to Seas.

    The Sow, with her broad Snout for rooting up

    Th’ intrusted Seed, was judg’d to spoil the Crop,

    And intercept the sweating Farmer’s hope:

    The cov’tous Churl, of unforgiving kind,

    Th’ Offender to the bloody Priest resign’d:

    Her Hunger was no Plea: For that she dy’d.

    The Goat came next in order, to be try’d:

    The Goat had cropt the tendrills of the Vine:

    In vengeance Laity and Clergy join,

    Where one had lost his Profit, one his Wine.

    Here was at least, some shadow of Offence:

    The Sheep was sacrific’d on no pretence,

    But meek, and unresisting Innocence.

    A patient, useful Creature, born to bear

    The warm and woolly Fleece, that cloath’d her Murderer,

    And daily to give down the Milk she bred,

    A Tribute for the Grass on which she fed.

    Living, both Food and Rayment she supplies,

    And is of least advantage when she dies.

    How did the toiling Oxe his Death deserve,

    A downright simple Drudge, and born to serve?

    O Tyrant! with what Justice canst thou hope

    The Promise of the Year, a plenteous Crop;

    When thou destroy’st thy lab’ring Steer, who till’d,

    And plough’d with Pains, thy else ungrateful Field?

    From his yet reeking Neck to draw the Yoke,

    That Neck, with which the surly Clods he broke;

    And to the Hatchet yield thy Husband-Man,

    Who finish’d Autumn, and the Spring began!

    Nor this alone! but Heav’n it self to bribe,

    We to the Gods our impious Acts ascribe:

    First recompence with Death their Creatures Toil,

    Then call the Bless’d above to share the Spoil:

    The fairest Victim must the Pow’rs appease:

    (So fatal ’tis sometimes too much to please!)

    A purple Fillet his broad Brows adorns,

    With flow’ry Garlands crown’d, and gilded Horns:

    He hears the murd’rous Pray’r the Priest prefers,

    But understands not, ’tis his Doom he hears:

    Beholds the Meal betwixt his Temples cast,

    (The Fruit and Product of his Labours past;)

    And in the Water views perhaps the Knife

    Uplifted, to deprive him of his Life;

    Then broken up alive his Entrails sees,

    Torn out for Priests t’ inspect the God’s Decrees.

    From whence, O mortal Men, this gust of Blood

    Have you deriv’d, and interdicted Food?

    Be taught by me this dire Delight to shun,

    Warn’d by my Precepts, by my Practice won:

    And when you eat the well deserving Beast,

    Think, on the Lab’rer of your Field you feast!

    Now since the God inspires me to proceed,

    Be that, whate’er inspiring Pow’r, obey’d.

    For I will sing of mighty Mysteries,

    Of Truths conceal’d before, from human Eyes,

    Dark Oracles unveil, and open all the Skies.

    Pleas’d as I am to walk along the Sphere

    Of shining Stars, and travel with the Year,

    To leave the heavy Earth, and scale the height

    Of Atlas, who supports the heav’nly weight:

    To look from upper Light, and thence survey

    Mistaken Mortals wandring from the way,

    And wanting Wisdom, fearful for the State

    Of future Things, and trembling at their Fate;

    Those I would teach; and by right Reason bring

    To think of Death, as but an idle Thing.

    Why thus affrighted at an empty Name,

    A Dream of Darkness, and fictitious Flame?

    Vain Themes of Wit, which but in Poems Pass,

    And Fables of a World, that never was!

    What feels the Body when the Soul expires,

    By time corrupted, or consum’d by Fires?

    Nor dies the Spirit, but new Life repeats

    In other Forms, and only changes Seats.

    Ev’n I, who these mysterious Truths declare,

    Was once Euphorbus in the Trojan War;

    My Name and Lineage I remember well,

    And how in Fight by Sparta’s King I fell.

    In Argive Juno’s Fane I late beheld

    My Buckler hung on high, and own’d my former Shield.

    Then, Death, so call’d, is but old Matter dress’d

    In some new Figure, and a vary’d Vest:

    Thus all Things are but alter’d, nothing dies;

    And here and there th’ unbodied Spirit flies,

    By Time, or Force, or Sickness dispossest,

    And lodges, where it lights, in Man or Beast;

    Or hunts without, till ready Limbs it find,

    And actuates those according to their kind;

    From Tenement to Tenement is toss’d;

    The Soul is still the same, the Figure only lost:

    And, as the soften’d Wax new Seals receives,

    This Face assumes, and that Impression leaves;

    Now call’d by one, now by another Name;

    The Form is only chang’d, the Wax is still the same:

    So Death, so call’d, can but the Form deface,

    Th’ immortal Soul flies out in empty space;

    To seek her Fortune in some other Place.

    Then let not Piety be put to flight,

    To please the taste of Glutton-Appetite;

    But suffer inmate Souls secure to dwell,

    Lest from their Seats your Parents you expel;

    With rabid Hunger feed upon your kind,

    Or from a Beast dislodge a Brother’s Mind.

    And since, like Tiphys parting from the Shore,

    In ample Seas I sail, and Depths untry’d before,

    This let me further add, that Nature knows

    No stedfast Station, but, or Ebbs, or Flows:

    Ever in motion; she destroys her old,

    And casts new Figures in another Mold.

    Ev’n Times are in perpetual Flux; and run,

    Like Rivers from their Fountain rowling on;

    For Time no more than Streams, is at a Stay:

    The flying Hour is ever on her way;

    And as the Fountain still supplies her store,

    The Wave behind impels the Wave before;

    Thus in successive Course the Minutes run,

    And urge their Predecessor Minutes on,

    Still moving, ever new: For former Things

    Are set aside, like abdicated Kings:

    And every moment alters what is done,

    And innovates some Act till then unknown.

    Darkness we see emerges into Light,

    And shining Suns descend to Sable Night;

    Ev’n Heav’n it self receives another die,

    When weari’d Animals in Slumbers lie,

    Of Midnight Ease: Another when the gray

    Of Morn preludes the Splendor of the Day.

    The Disk of Phœbus when he climbs on high,

    Appears at first but as a bloodshot Eye;

    And when his Chariot downward drives to Bed,

    His Ball is with the same Suffusion red;

    But mounted high in his Meridian Race

    All bright he shines, and with a better Face:

    For there, pure Particles of Æther flow,

    Far from th’ Infection of the World below.

    Nor equal Light th’ unequal Moon adorns,

    Or in her wexing or her waning Horns.

    For ev’ry Day she wanes, her Face is less,

    But gath’ring into Globe, she fattens at increase.

    Perceiv’st thou not the process of the Year,

    How the four Seasons in four Forms appear,

    Resembling human Life in ev’ry Shape they wear?

    Spring first, like Infancy, shoots out her Head,

    With milky Juice requiring to be fed:

    Helpless, tho’ fresh, and wanting to be led.

    The green Stem grows in Stature and in Size,

    But only feeds with hope the Farmer’s Eyes;

    Then laughs the childish Year with Flourets crown’d,

    And lavishly perfumes the Fields around,

    But no substantial Nourishment receives,

    Infirm the Stalks, unsolid are the Leaves.

    Proceeding onward whence the Year began

    The Summer grows adult, and ripens into Man.

    This Season, as in Men, is most repleat,

    With kindly Moisture, and prolifick Heat.

    Autumn succeeds, a sober tepid Age,

    Not froze with Fear, nor boiling into Rage;

    More than mature, and tending to decay,

    When our brown Locks repine to mix with odious Grey.

    Last Winter creeps along with tardy pace,

    Sour is his Front, and furrow’d is his Face.

    His Scalp if not dishonour’d quite of Hair,

    The ragg’d Fleece is thin, and thin is worse than bare.

    Ev’n our own Bodies daily change receive,

    Some part of what was theirs before, they leave;

    Nor are to Day what Yesterday they were;

    Nor the whole same to Morrow will appear.

    Time was, when we were sow’d, and just began

    From some few fruitful Drops, the promise of a Man;

    Then Nature’s Hand (fermented as it was)

    Moulded to Shape the soft, coagulated Mass;

    And when the little Man was fully form’d,

    The breathless Embryo with a Spirit warm’d;

    But when the Mothers Throws begin to come,

    The Creature, pent within the narrow Room,

    Breaks his blind Prison, pushing to repair

    His stiffled Breath, and draw the living Air;

    Cast on the Margin of the World he lies,

    A helpless Babe, but by Instinct he cries.

    He next essays to walk, but downward press’d,

    On four Feet imitates his Brother Beast:

    By slow degrees he gathers from the Ground

    His Legs, and to the rowling Chair is bound;

    Then walks alone; a Horseman now become,

    He rides a Stick, and travels round the Room:

    In time he vaunts among his Youthful Peers,

    Strong-bon’d, and strung with Nerves, in pride of Years,

    He runs with Mettle his first merry Stage,

    Maintains the next, abated of his Rage,

    But manages his Strength, and spares his Age.

    Heavy the third, and stiff, he sinks apace,

    And tho’ ’tis down-hill all, but creeps along the Race.

    Now sapless on the verge of Death he stands,

    Contemplating his former Feet, and Hands;

    And Milo-like, his slacken’d Sinews sees,

    And wither’d Arms, once fit to cope with Hercules,

    Unable now to shake, much less to tear the Trees.

    So Helen wept, when her too faithful Glass

    Reflected to her Eyes the ruins of her Face:

    Wondring what Charms her Ravishers cou’d spy,

    To force her twice, or ev’n but once enjoy!

    Thy Teeth, devouring Time, thine, envious Age,

    On Things below still exercise your Rage:

    With venom’d Grinders you corrupt your Meat,

    And then at lingring Meals, the Morsels eat.

    Nor those, which Elements we call, abide,

    Nor to this Figure, nor to that are ty’d;

    For this eternal World is said of Old

    But four prolifick Principles to hold,

    Four different Bodies; two to Heaven ascend,

    And other two down to the Center tend:

    Fire first with Wings expanded mounts on high,

    Pure, void of weight, and dwells in upper Sky;

    Then Air, because unclogg’d in empty space,

    Flies after Fire, and claims the second Place:

    But weighty Water, as her Nature guides,

    Lies on the Lap of Earth, and Mother Earth subsides.

    All things are mix’d of these, which all contain,

    And into these are all resolv’d again

    Earth rarifies to Dew, expanded more

    The subtil Dew in Air begins to soar;

    Spreads as she flies, and weary of her Name

    Extenuates still, and changes into Flame;

    Thus having by Degrees Perfection won,

    Restless they soon untwist the Web they spun,

    And Fire begins to lose her radiant Hue,

    Mix’d with gross Air, and Air descends to Dew;

    And Dew condensing, does her Form forego.

    And sinks, a heavy Lump of Earth below.

    Thus are their Figures never at a stand,

    But chang’d by Nature’s innovating Hand;

    All Things are alter’d, nothing is destroy’d,

    The shifted Scene, for some new Show employ’d.

    Then to be born, is to begin to be,

    Some other Thing we were not formerly:

    And what we call to Die, is not t’ appear,

    Or be the Thing that formerly we were.

    Those very Elements, which we partake

    Alive, when Dead some other Bodies make:

    Translated grow, have Sense, or can discourse;

    But Death on deathless Substance has no force.

    That Forms are chang’d, I grant, that nothing can

    Continue in the Figure it began:

    The Golden Age to Silver was debas’d:

    To Copper that; our Mettal came at last.

    The Face of Places, and their Forms decay;

    And that is solid Earth, that once was Sea:

    Seas in their turn retreating from the Shore,

    Make solid Land, what Ocean was before;

    And far from Strands are Shells of Fishes found,

    And rusty Anchors fix’d on Mountain-Ground:

    And what were Fields before, now wash’d and worn

    By falling Floods from high, to Valleys turn,

    And crumbling still descend to level Lands;

    And Lakes, and trembling Bogs are barren Sands:

    And the parch’d Desart floats in Streams unknown;

    Wondring to drink of Waters not her own.

    Here Nature living Fountains opes; and there,

    Seals up the Wombs where living Fountains were;

    Or Earthquakes stop their ancient Course, and bring

    Diverted Streams to feed a distant Spring.

    So Lycus, swallow’d up, is seen no more,

    But far from thence knocks out another Door.

    Thus Erasinus dives; and blind in Earth

    Runs on, and gropes his way to second Birth.

    Starts up in Argos Meads, and shakes his Locks

    Around the Fields, and fattens all the Flocks.

    So Mysus by another way is led,

    And, grown a River now disdains his Head:

    Forgets his humble Birth, his Name forsakes,

    And the proud Title of Caicus takes.

    Large Amenane, impure with yellow Sands,

    Runs rapid often, and as often stands;

    And here he threats the drunken Fields to drown,

    And there his Dugs deny to give their Liquor down.

    Anigros once did wholesome Draughts afford,

    But now his deadly Waters are abhorr’d:

    Since, hurt by Hercules, as Fame resounds,

    The Centaurs in his current wash’d their Wounds.

    The Streams of Hypanis are sweet no more,

    But brackish lose the tast they had before.

    Antissa, Pharos, Tyre in Seas were pent,

    Once Isles, but now increase the Continent;

    While the Leucadian Coast, main Land before,

    By rushing Seas is sever’d from the Shore.

    So Zancle to th’ Italian Earth was ty’d,

    And Men once walk’d where Ships at Anchor ride;

    Till Neptune overlook’d the narrow way,

    And in disdain pour’d in the conqu’ring Sea.

    Two Cities that adorn’d th’ Achaian Ground,

    Buris and Helice, no more are found,

    But whelm’d beneath a Lake, are sunk and drown’d;

    And Boatsmen through the Chrystal Water show

    To wond’ring Passengers the Walls below.

    Near Træzen stands a Hill, expos’d in Air

    To Winter-Winds, of leafy Shadows bare:

    This once was level Ground: But (strange to tell)

    Th’ included Vapors, that in Caverns dwell,

    Lab’ring with Cholick Pangs, and close confin’d,

    In vain sought issue for the rumbling Wind:

    Yet still they heav’d for vent, and heaving still

    Inlarg’d the Concave, and shot up the Hill;

    As Breath extends a Bladder, or the Skins

    Of Goats are blown t’ inclose the hoarded Wines:

    The Mountain yet retains a Mountain’s Face,

    And gather’d Rubbish heals the hollow space.

    Of many Wonders, which I heard or knew,

    Retrenching most, I will relate but few:

    What, are not Springs with Qualities oppos’d

    Endu’d at Seasons, and at Seasons lost?

    Thrice in a Day thine, Ammon, change their Form,

    Cold at high Noon, at Morn and Evening warm:

    Thine, Athaman, will kindle Wood, if thrown

    On the pil’d Earth, and in the waning Moon.

    The Thracians have a Stream, if any try

    The tast, his harden’d Bowels petrify;

    Whate’er it touches it converts to Stones,

    And makes a Marble Pavement where it runs.

    Crathis, and Sybaris her Sister Flood,

    That slide through our Calabrian Neighbour Wood,

    With Gold and Amber die the shining Hair,

    And thither Youth resort; (for who wou’d not be Fair?)

    But stranger Virtues yet in Streams we find,

    Some change not only Bodies, but the Mind:

    Who has not heard of Salmacis obscene.

    Whose Waters into Women soften Men?

    Of Æthyopian Lakes, which turn the Brain

    To Madness, or in heavy Sleep constrain?

    Clytorian Streams the Love of Wine expel,

    (Such is the Virtue of th’ abstemious Well;)

    Whether the colder Nymph that rules the Flood

    Extinguishes, and balks the drunken God;

    Or that Melampus (so have some assur’d)

    When the mad Prætides with Charms he cur’d,

    And pow’rful Herbs, both Charms and Simples cast

    Into the sober Spring, where still their Virtues last.

    Unlike Effects Lyncestis will produce;

    Who drinks his Waters, tho’ with moderate use,

    Reels as with Wine, and sees with double Sight:

    His Heels too heavy, and his Head too light.

    Ladon, once Pheneos, an Arcadian Stream,

    (Ambiguous in th’ Effects, as in the Name)

    By Day is wholesom Bev’rage; but is thought

    By Night infected, and a deadly Draught.

    Thus running Rivers, and the standing Lake

    Now of these virtues, now of those partake:

    Time was (and all Things Time and Fate obey)

    When fast Ortygia floated on the Sea;

    Such were Cyanean Isles, when Tiphys steer’d

    Betwixt their Streights, and their Collision fear’d;

    They swam where now they sit; and firmly join’d

    Secure of rooting up, resist the Wind.

    Nor Ætna vomiting sulphureous Fire

    Will ever belch; for Sulphur will expire,

    (The Veins exhausted of the liquid Store;)

    Time was she cast no Flames; in time will cast no more.

    For whether Earth’s an Animal, and Air

    Imbibes, her Lungs with Coolness to repair,

    And what she sucks remits; she still requires

    Inlets for Air, and Outlets for her Fires;

    When tortur’d with convulsive Fits she shakes,

    That Motion chokes the vent, till other vent she makes:

    Or when the Winds in hollow Caves are clos’d,

    And subtil Spirits find that way oppos’d,

    They toss up Flints in Air; the Flints that hide

    The Seeds of Fire, thus toss’d in Air, collide,

    Kindling the Sulphur, till the Fewel spent

    The Cave is cool’d, and the fierce Winds relent.

    Or whether Sulphur, catching Fire, feeds on

    Its unctuous Parts, till all the Matter gone,

    The Flames no more ascend; for Earth supplies

    The Fat that feeds them; and when Earth denies

    That Food, by length of Time consum’d, the Fire

    Famish’d for want of Fewel must expire.

    A Race of Men there are, as Fame has told,

    Who shiv’ring suffer Hyperborean Cold,

    Till nine times bathing in Minerva’s Lake,

    Soft Feathers, to defend their naked Sides, they take.

    ’Tis said, the Scythian Wives (believe who will)

    Transform themselves to Birds by Magick Skill;

    Smear’d over with an Oil of wond’rous Might,

    That adds new Pinions to their airy Flight.

    But this by sure Experiment we know,

    That living Creatures from Corruption grow:

    Hide in a hollow Pit a slaughter’d Steer,

    Bees from his putrid Bowels will appear;

    Who like their Parents haunt the Fields, and bring

    Their Hony-Harvest home, and hope another Spring.

    The Warlike-Steed is multiply’d we find,

    To Wasps and Hornets of the Warrior Kind.

    Cut from a Crab his crooked Claws, and hide

    The rest in Earth, a Scorpion thence will glide

    And shoot his Sting, his Tail in Circles toss’d

    Refers the Limbs his backward Father lost.

    And Worms, that Stretch on Leaves their filmy Loom,

    Crawl from their Bags, and Butterflies become

    Ev’n Slime begets the Frog’s loquacious Race:

    Short of their Feet at first, in little Space

    With Arms and Legs endu’d, long leaps they take,

    Rais’d on their hinder part, and swim the Lake,

    And waves repel: For Nature gives their Kind,

    To that intent, a length of Legs behind.

    The Cubs of Bears a living lump appear,

    When whelp’d, and no determin’d Figure wear.

    Their Mother licks ’em into Shape, and gives

    As much of Form, as she her self receives.

    The Grubs from their sexangular abode

    Crawl out unfinish’d, like the Maggot’s Brood:

    Trunks without Limbs; till time at Leisure brings

    The Thighs they wanted, and their tardy Wings.

    The Bird who draws the Carr of Juno, vain

    Of her crown’d Head, and of her Starry Train;

    And he that bears th’ Artillery of Jove,

    The strong-pounc’d Eagle; and the billing Dove;

    And all the feather’d Kind, who cou’d suppose

    (But that from sight the surest Sense he knows)

    They from th’ included Yolk, not ambient White arose.

    There are who think the Marrow of a Man,

    Which in the Spine, while he was living, ran;

    When dead, the Pith corrupted will become

    A Snake, and hiss within the hollow Tomb.

    All these receive their Birth from other Things;

    But from himself the Phœnix only springs:

    Self-born, begotten by the Parent Flame

    In which he burn’d, another and the same:

    Who not by Corn or Herbs his Life sustains,

    But the sweet Essence of Amomum drains

    And watches the rich Gums Arabia bears,

    While yet in tender Dew they drop their Tears.

    He, (his five Centuries of life fulfill’d)

    His Nest on Oaken Boughs begins to build,

    Or trembling tops of Palm: and first he draws

    The Plan with his broad Bill, and crooked Claws,

    Nature’s Artificers; on this the Pile

    Is form’d, and rises round, then with the Spoil

    Of Casia, Cynamon, and Stems of Nard,

    (For Softness strew’d beneath,) his Fun’ral Bed is rear’d:

    Fun’ral and Bridal both; and all around

    The Borders with corruptless Myrrh are crown’d:

    On this incumbent; till ætherial Flame

    First catches, then consumes the costly Frame;

    Consumes him too, as on the Pile he lies;

    He liv’d on Odours, and in Odours dies.

    An Infant-Phœnix from the former springs,

    His Father’s Heir, and from his tender Wings

    Shakes off his Parent Dust; his Method he pursues,

    And the same Lease of Life on the same Terms renews:

    When grown to Manhood he begins his Reign,

    And with stiff Pinions can his Flight sustain,

    He lightens of its Load the Tree that bore

    His Father’s Royal Sepulcher before,

    And his own Cradle: This (with pious Care

    Plac’d on his Back) he cuts the buxome Air,

    Seeks the Sun’s City, and his sacred Church,

    And decently lays down his Burden in the Porch.

    A Wonder more amazing wou’d we find?

    Th’ Hyæna shows it, of a double kind,

    Varying the Sexes in alternate Years,

    In one begets, and in another bears.

    The thin Camelion, fed with Air, receives

    The colour of the Thing to which he cleaves.

    India when conquer’d, on the conqu’ring God

    For planted Vines the sharp-ey’d Lynx bestow’d,

    Whose Urine, shed before it touches Earth,

    Congeals in Air, and gives to Gems their Birth.

    So Coral soft and white in Oceans Bed,

    Comes harden’d up in Air, and glows with Red.

    All changing Species should my Song recite;

    Before I ceas’d, wou’d change the Day to Night.

    Nations and Empires flourish and decay,

    By turns command, and in their turns obey;

    Time softens hardy People, Time again

    Hardens to War a soft, unwarlike Train.

    Thus Troy, for ten long Years, her Foes withstood,

    And daily bleeding bore th’ expence of Blood:

    Now for thick Streets it shows an empty Space,

    Or only fill’d with Tombs of her own perish’d Race,

    Her self becomes the Sepulcher of what she was.

    Mycene, Sparta, Thebes of mighty Fame,

    Are vanish’d out of Substance into Name,

    And Dardan Rome, that just begins to rise,

    On Tiber’s Banks, in time shall mate the Skies;

    Widening her Bounds, and working on her way,

    Ev’n now she meditates Imperial Sway:

    Yet this is change, but she by changing thrives,

    Like Moons new-born, and in her Cradle strives

    To fill her Infant-Horns; an Hour shall come

    When the round World shall be contain’d in Rome.

    For thus old Saws fortel, and Helenus

    Anchises drooping Son enliven’d thus,

    When Ilium now was in a sinking State,

    And he was doubtful of his future Fate:

    O Goddess-born, with thy hard Fortune strive,

    Troy never can be lost, and thou alive.

    Thy Passage thou shalt free through Fire and Sword,

    And Troy in Foreign Lands shall be restor’d.

    In happier Fields a rising Town I see,

    Greater than what e’er was, or is, or e’er shall be:

    And Heav’n yet owes the World a Race deriv’d from Thee.

    Sages, and Chiefs of other Lineage born,

    The City shall extend, extended shall adorn:

    But from Iulus he must draw his Birth,

    By whom thy Rome shall rule the conquer’d Earth:

    Whom Heav’n will lend Mankind on Earth to reign,

    And late require the precious Pledge again.

    This Helenus to great Æneas told,

    Which I retain, e’er since in other Mould

    My Soul was cloath’d; and now rejoice to view

    My Country Walls rebuilt, and Troy reviv’d anew,

    Rais’d by the fall: Decreed by Loss to Gain;

    Enslav’d but to be free, and conquer’d but to reign.

    ’Tis time my hard-mouth’d Coursers to controul,

    Apt to run Riot, and transgress the Goal:

    And therefore I conclude, whatever lies

    In Earth, or flits in Air, or fills the Skies,

    All suffer change, and we, that are of Soul

    And Body mix’d, are Members of the whole.

    Then, when our Sires, or Grandsires shall forsake

    The Forms of Men, and brutal Figures take,

    Thus hous’d, securely let their Spirits rest,

    Nor violate thy Father in the Beast,

    Thy Friend, thy Brother, any of thy Kin;

    If none of these, yet there’s a Man within:

    O spare to make a Thyestæan Meal,

    T’ inclose his Body, and his Soul expel.

    Ill Customs by degrees to Habits rise,

    Ill Habits soon become exalted Vice:

    What more Advance can Mortals make in Sin

    So near Perfection, who with Blood begin?

    Deaf to the Calf that lies beneath the Knife,

    Looks up, and from her Butcher begs her Life:

    Deaf to the harmless Kid, that, e’er he dies,

    All Methods to procure thy Mercy tries,

    And imitates in vain thy Children’s Cries.

    Where will he stop, who feeds with Household Bread,

    Then eats the Poultry which before he fed?

    Let plough thy Steers; that when they lose their Breath,

    To Nature, not to thee, they may impute their Death.

    Let Goats for Food their loaded Udders lend,

    And Sheep from Winter-cold thy Sides defend;

    But neither Sprindges, Nets, nor Snares employ,

    And be no more Ingenious to destroy.

    Free as in Air, let Birds on Earth remain,

    Not let insidious Glue their Wings constrain;

    Nor opening Hounds the trembling Stag affright,

    Nor purple Feathers intercept his Flight;

    Nor Hooks conceal’d in Baits for Fish prepare,

    Nor Lines to heave ’em twinkling up in Air.

    Take not away the Life you cannot give:

    For all Things have an equal right to live.

    Kill noxious Creatures, where ’tis Sin to save;

    This only just Prerogative we have:

    But nourish Life with vegetable Food,

    And shun the sacrilegious tast of Blood.

    These Precepts by the Samian Sage were taught,

    Which Godlike Numa to the Sabines brought,

    And thence transferr’d to Rome, by Gift his own:

    A willing People, and an offer’d Throne.

    O happy Monarch, sent by Heav’n to bless

    A Salvage Nation with soft Arts of Peace,

    To teach Religion, Rapine to restrain,

    Give Laws to Lust, and Sacrifice ordain:

    Himself a Saint, a Goddess was his Bride,

    And all the Muses o’er his Acts preside.